SOUTH PORTLAND — The Board of Education took a stand against the legalization of marijuana in South Portland on Wednesday night, voting 4-3 to oppose a November referendum question that will ask voters to make it legal for adults over 21 to possess small amounts of the drug.

The resolution before board members Wednesday focused on the health risks that marijuana use poses to youths, a key point of contention between legalization advocates and foes.

The resolution cites research showing that heavy use of marijuana by adolescents is linked to increased cases of psychotic, mood and anxiety disorders, as wells as problems with attention, learning, memory and processing speeds.

It also cites results from the 2013 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey indicating that 27.5 percent of South Portland High School students reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, and 22.6 percent of the city’s middle school students and 64.7 percent of its high school students believe there is “no risk” or only a “slight risk” from regular marijuana use.

Voters in South Portland and Lewiston are scheduled to vote Nov. 4 on ordinances that would declare it legal for adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

South Portland’s Police Chief Edward Googins urged board members to support the resolution, which he said sends a strong message to the city’s youth that marijuana is not a safe drug to use.

“Legalizing marijuana use will not make our community safer or add to our quality of life,” Googins told the board. “The poor message that this (referendum) could send to our youth is very concerning. Do we really want to normalize the use of marijuana in our community?”

Board Chairman Tappan Fitzgerald, James Gilboy, Mary House and Richard Matthews voted to support the resolution, while Richard Carter, Sara Goldberg and Karen Callaghan voted against it.

Fitzgerald said dissenting members felt that marijuana legalization was more of a City Council issue and political in nature. Those voting in the minority noted that the school department already has a zero tolerance policy for drug use.

The resolution is similar to one passed unanimously in June by the South Portland City Council and another passed by a 4-2 vote of the Lewiston School Committee in September.

South Portland Mayor Gerard Jalbert asked the board to support the resolution. He called legalization unenforceable because of state and federal laws that make marijuana use illegal.

“It is a bogus referendum,” Jalbert said. “The city has no legal authority to permit the use of pot.”

The pro-legalization camp has said there is widespread political support in Maine to end marijuana prohibition because the drug is safer than alcohol and outlawing it has not kept it out of the hands of young people.

Opponents say legalization would make the drug more accessible and send a dangerous message to youths.

As in the ordinance that passed in Portland in 2013, public use of the drug and possession by minors would still be illegal under the proposed ordinances in South Portland and Lewiston.

The citizen initiatives have more political value than legal impact because marijuana possession would remain illegal under federal and state laws, and local police officials have said they will continue to enforce state laws.

In Portland, for example, Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Tuesday that his officers issued 48 citations for possession of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana after Dec. 6, 2013, when the city’s ordinance legalized pot possession for recreational use. That compared to 33 citations between Dec. 5, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013.

While the ordinances don’t mean the coast is clear for recreational marijuana users, passage would be a clear step toward a planned statewide legalization referendum.

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